STARTUP

13 Ways to (Productively) Waste Time

Need a few minutes browsing the web to recharge your brain? There are better options for those minutes than dogs on skateboards.
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It’s 3:30 in the afternoon or right before lunch on a Friday and it’s clear: your brain just isn’t going to do any more work at this exact moment. Experts suggest you not fight the impulse.

Numerous studies have shown that we actually get more done if we take periodic breaks away from work to refresh. So the question isn’t should you kick back for a few minutes, it’s what’s the best use of that time? Facebook, cute kittens, or a quick glance at the sports scores might be the go-to answer for most of us, but the Web offers far more than just brain-rotting distraction. Here are a few fresh ideas:

Parlez-vous Français?

The Web is a great resource for those looking to learn a second language. Try Duolingo for a handful of European languages. Memrise is a great tool to build your vocabulary (or remember anything really). Or, if you’re not looking for fluency but just want to know how to ask for the bathroom on your next trip abroad, BBC Languages can help.

Study Up

No matter what subject you want to learn, there’s probably an Internet resource to assist you. Try Khan Academy for free, bite-sized education videos (great for refreshing the memory about your kid’s homework), or Coursera or Yale Open Courses for a deeper dive.

Read Something Smart

Know you want to read something smart but not sure what exactly you’re after? The eclectic offerings at Medium, a platform to share your ideas in writing, might be for you.

A Knowledge Injection

Sometimes you just don’t feel like reading. That doesn’t mean you can’t be learning. TED has more than 1,700 fascinating talks to suit every inclination, on topics ranging from dancing dung beetles (seriously) and body language to Larry Page on the future of Google.

Go Zen

Why do you need to take so many breaks in the first place? Are you stressed? Zenhabits can help you calm down, simplify, and enjoy life more.

Code

Of course you want to learn how to code--everyone says you ought to--maybe now is the time to actually get started. Codeacademy can help you learn JavaScript, HTML/CSS, Ruby, Python, or PHP.

Plan Dinner

This is a strategy for double enjoyment. You get to fantasize about the tastiness now and actually savor it later. Cooklet, Epicurious, or Serious Eats, among many others, offer inspiration. (Note: not recommended immediately before lunch.)

Make it Yourself

Are you a DIY enthusiast? Hackaday offers you a new project with instructions every single day.

Set Your Financial House in Order

Want to finally keep track of your spending and set your household budget in order? A few minutes on Mint.com is all it takes. Need info? The Simple Dollar and Get Rich Slowly offer advice.

Seek Out Answers

Do you have a question you always wanted an answer to? Q&A site Quora can help. A generous community offers thoughtful responses to just about any question, with even high profile folks like startup founders and VCs taking the time to share their knowledge. Or you could just browse through the myriad, fascinating questions others have already asked.

Shred

Inside every serious entrepreneur, there’s a repressed guitar hero dying to come out. Feed your inner rockstar (or jazz great) on your break with Justin Guitar. (Note: requires an office where you won’t feel mortified strumming a guitar.)

Stargaze

This isn’t only for the overnight shift. Heavens-above.com lets you learn and track all the constellations.

…or Just Go With the Dog on the Skateboard

Sometimes, honestly, nothing will do but LOLcats. Here’s the good news: you can actually plausibly claim that looking at cute animal pictures boosts your productivity. Thank you, science.

What websites would you add to this list?

 

Last updated: Apr 1, 2014

JESSICA STILLMAN | Columnist

Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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